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Ford Says Good-Bye to Cab-Forward

Model - Ford Futura

Status - Model Year 2006, Available 2005

by Casey Williams -

Not too long ago, I told you about the Chrysler Airflite concept car that was unveiled in Geneva. I mentioned then that the car signaled a change in how the Chrysler Group will shape its stable of sedans in the future. For 10 years, the company has based its reputation on shortening hoods, moving windshield bases forward, raking back glass, and arching roofs dramatically. The Chrysler 300M, Dodge Intrepid, and Chrysler Concorde illustrate my point. Ford even copied Chrysler with the 1996 Taurus. No more! Both companies are reaching to classic luxury cars for their inspiration. Long flat hoods, angular rooflines, and tall cabins are all the rage. The 2006 Ford Futura was announced at the New York Auto Show. Let�s have a look.

�The Futura has been conceived to pull at consumers� heartstrings, not their purse strings. Futura will be that rare mid-size sedan that oozes style but doesn�t sacrifice roominess, comfort, trunk space � or affordability,� stated J Mays, V.P. of Design, Ford Motor Company.

Designed to slot between the Focus and upcoming Five Hundred sedans, the Futura will effectively etch the last letter of the Taurus� epitaph. It will feature a tall cabin with an easy step-in seating position. Much of the exterior was inspired by the Ford 427 concept car from this year�s Detroit auto show. It is very clean and European, but with a decidedly American flair.

You might be surprised to learn that the Futura�s chassis and powertrain are already on America�s highways under the skin of the 2003 Mazda 6. Since the 6 is an excellent sedan in any company, Ford could find few better places to start when thinking up its own new cars. 2.3-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V6 engines, as well as a continuously-variable transmission (CVT), will be available.

Something not available on the Mazda, that will be on the options list for the Ford, is a hybrid powertrain. The system was originally engineered for the 2004 Escape HEV, but will be borrowed for use in the Futura. It combines the 2.3-litre engine with a 65-kilowatt electric motor. The car will have the capability to run on full-battery power, the gas engine alone, or both powerplants together. The benefit is a vehicle that will have the performance level of a V6 engine with the fuel economy of a four-cylinder model.

With 10 models eventually sharing the same Mazda 6/Futura platform, Ford expects to build nearly 800,000 vehicles with basically the same underbody parts. With economies of scale like that, Futura buyers will be able to purchase a world-class machine at entry mid-size prices.

As communicated by Phil Martens, V.P. of product creation for Ford of North America, �We�re making full use of the best technologies and components available across Ford Motor Company, including vehicle architectures, engines, transmissions and safety equipment. That�s smart investing � both financially and for quality.� No complaints here.

Competitors will include the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevy Malibu, and Nissan Altima. Expect prices to begin under $20,000.
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